It’s not been the smoothest of starts for Palace this season – what have you made of the campaign to date?
It has been disappointing. Saying that, I didn’t expect us to start particularly well – I don’t think anyone did! The most frustrating thing is how weak we are defensively as a lot of the goals we’re shipping have come from silly defensive errors. We also look toothless in attack at times and we’re pinning our hopes on our star striker – Glenn Murray – coming back from injury in January. As downbeat as the above sounds, there are positives. We might have lost six out of seven games, but we’ve played some decent football and been unlucky at times. I’m making the most of the new away days and will enjoy the season whatever happens.
A lot of new players have been brought in and that always creates a transition period doesn’t it?
It does, and unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of time for the new signings to gel. We need to start picking up points otherwise we’ll be cut adrift. Our fantastic team spirit has arguably been diluted by the sheer volume of new faces at the club. I understand we need cover – it’s a long old season and we’re already facing injuries and suspensions – it just seems we’ve gone for quantity over quality. I hope I’m being overly pessimistic, though, and that we’ll see a more settled side soon.
Which of the new signings have stood out for you?
Jose Campana. Signed from Sevilla, he’s captain of Spain’s Under-20 side. Ian Holloway is introducing him gradually but he has shown real class during his cameos. He’s a great passer of the ball and looks very calm and assured in a team prone to moments of madness. The jury is still out on the rest. Marouane Chamakh, our most high-profile signing, works hard and clearly has ability but looks low on confidence. Hopefully he’ll nick a goal soon and that will be the catalyst for him to start banging them in.
Mile Jedinak – he’s a beast. His ability to rough the opposition up and break up play is excellent; he’s such an important player for us. Joel Ward is another one who has made the step up to the Premier League beautifully. We were all gutted when Nathaniel Clyne left for Southampton but we’ve got a more than capable replacement in Joel. I like to think Dwight Gayle, our record signing, will be full of confidence having scored at Anfield and will be raring to go against Fulham.
Of course, there’s a former Fulham player in your ranks – how has Kagisho Dikgacoi fared in his time at the club?
I would describe his Palace career as solid yet unspectacular. Last season he was struggling with fitness but, in fairness, he has made a respectable start to life in the Premier League. He was unlucky to be sent off at Old Trafford earlier in the season and we missed his presence during his suspension. He has formed a good midfield partnership with Jedinak and can expect to start most games.
I would bite your hand off! Staying up would be fantastic but is it realistic? Probably not. I accept that relegation is a very real prospect; I just hope it’s with a fight. All I ask for this season is that we give it a bloody good go.
Have you seen much of Fulham this season and what do you make of Martin Jol’s side?
So far this season I’ve not seen much of Fulham, although I’m aware that their home form, until the recent win over Stoke City, hasn’t been great. I was expecting more from Dimitar Berbatov given his reputation, although it hasn’t been too much of an issue as Darren Bent is now starting to find his feet. What a shame he didn’t end up at Palace instead! Other than that I’m looking forward to seeing what they offer on Monday – obviously I hope it won’t be enough to take anything away from Selhurst!
Looking at the table, you’re presumably targeting the Fulham fixture as a must-win match?
Absolutely. I view this game as part of a mini-league in the bottom half of the table – we need to pick up points against our fellow strugglers. We showed we can do it against Sunderland and I hope we see a repeat of that. A draw would be okay, but a defeat is unthinkable.
Which Fulham player do you expect to cause Palace the most problems?
Bent. We were so close to signing him that he’s certain to pop up with a goal.
What’s the best and worst thing about a trip to Selhurst Park?
It’s a cliché often wheeled out to describe the older grounds, but Selhurst really is a proper football stadium and you’re guaranteed a great atmosphere. That has to be the best thing about it. So far I have been distinctly unimpressed with home atmospheres in the Premier League but you won’t find any soulless prawn sandwich brigades here. Another plus is the ground is easy to get to/from (contrary to popular belief!) as there are three overground stations within walking distance. The worst thing is the facilities in the ground, however Fulham fans should find it has improved since their last visit. For example, the owners have vastly improved the catering.
Where can away fans go for a pint before the game?
Avoid The Cherries as it’s strictly home fans only. The Victory Club is predominantly a home fans’ pub but it’s generally friendlier and away supporters are welcome. It’s a short walk from both Norwood Junction and the stadium. Get there early – the cheap prices ensure it’s always rammed.
What’s one chant we’re bound to hear at the match?
To the Heartbeat theme tune: “Yannick… Yannick Bolasie runs down the wing for me!” Bolasie is just returning from injury and we’re crying out for his creativity. If he’s on the bench, we’ll soon make it clear to Ollie that we want him out on the pitch!
What’s your score prediction for the match?
It’s vital we get something from this game. I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet but I do feel optimistic, so I’ll plump for a tight 2-1 win for the Palace.